The difference between how we perceive addiction to alcohol, and how we perceive addiction to cigarettes is striking. Drinking is glamorized and normalized. As we see it in our culture, people drink because that is what people do! People smoke because they are addicted. If someone becomes addicted to alcohol we consider it to be a problem with the person, not the drink.
If you don’t smoke and never did it’s hard to understand the appeal of cigarettes. Cigarettes smell bad, taste bad, and are laced with toxic chemicals like arsenic and ammonia. They are also expensive. It’s easy to wonder what the attraction could possibly be to smoking cigarettes, especially if you live in a country that allows images of deadly smoking-related diseases to be pasted on cigarette packs.
I quit smoking two years ago and will never go back to being owned by that addiction. It took me almost 30 years to quit. Thirty years of saying
Just one more – I’ll Quit Tomorrow
Thirty years of worrying about the effect of smoking on my health and feeling disgusted with myself for not being strong enough to stop.
Thirty years of wasting money on cigarettes and wasting time smoking them.
The problem with addiction is that even though I KNOW on a rational level that cigarettes are vile and that if I have just one they will own me again, my rational brain will not win if I pick up a smoke again. The only way for me to stay free is to stay away from nicotine because while it may be an obvious poison to others, once I get that nicotine into my bloodstream it is nectar to my addicted brain.
I have the same reaction to alcohol. After almost four years sober I’m solid but if I pick up one drink I’m back down the rabbit hole. Unlike smoking which I’m not encouraged to do by anyone, I have to work a bit every day on staying away from drinking. It’s not that alcohol has a stronger pull on me than nicotine. If anything I’m more likely to crave a smoke these days then a drink when I’m hungry or tired. The reason that I have to work harder to not pick up a drink is that drinking is still so glamourized even in this time when statistics keep piling up to tell us that too many, way too many people, are dying for a drink.
The world around me will enthusiastically offer me “Just One Drink” often and forever. And many people will always question whether or not I really need to be abstinent or if I’m just overreacting a bit.
Try to imagine that with cigarettes or heroin or cocaine. Try to imagine people telling you that you should smoke or snort or shoot up just a bit because you weren’t that bad.
I was given a video the other day that deglamorized drinking quite brilliantly. It was made by a nine years sober addict and his wife who is in recovery from alcohol addiction.
I shared the video in my online community and a woman who is a year sober but once would fit the same High Functioning Alcoholic category that I had said this about it :
Wow! This short video created by two people in recovery is really powerful. Only people who have gone through this kind of hell could have made such an impactful video. And dare I say this? Only people who have experienced this kind of hell can truly appreciate how accurate it is.
If you are a casual drinker you will not understand this video. It will seem overly dramatic.
But if, when you stop drinking, the conversation in your head goes like this —-
I hear a distant voice telling me I deserve a reward.
“You’ve done well” it says.
“Damn right!” I proudly proclaim.
“Feeling pretty good?” I hear it ask.
“You know it” I reply.
“You’re rather proud of yourself” the voice notes. And, yes I am. “You should be” it says.
I am enjoying my accomplishment, I admit to myself, feeling confident and a bit smug. Yesterday was a challenging day but I overcame that. I’ve begun to work on some personal issues that I wanted to address. Taken care of neglected chores. Mentally, I pat myself on the back.
“You deserve a treat” I hear, “You should celebrate”.
“I should” I think to myself, “I do deserve it”.
“A nice glass of wine or a whiskey would be a good way to mark the milestone” whispers the voice.
“I beg your pardon?” I ask.
“As part of a nice dinner of course. Like an appetizer. Just one.” The voice is quite convincing.
“No, I shouldn’t. I can’t” I say, standing my ground.
“You can” it replies “you’re much stronger now and confident. Just one, that’s all. It would be fun.”
Fun sounds good and I am a stronger person. Perhaps it’s not such a bad idea. I should celebrate.
“Of course you should” comes the encouragement. ”You deserve this and you can handle it.”
then play the movie through………
I go out and shop for my dinner then stop at the liquor store. Of course you can’t buy just one glass of wine so I choose a bottle of red and head towards the checkout but then I pause and think, “That whiskey sounded pretty good and would make a good nightcap”. So I pick up a bottle of that as well and purchase my celebratory supplies.
At home, the whiskey meant as a nightcap becomes a pre-dinner drink. I stop after one, complimenting myself on my restraint then open the bottle of wine to have one glass with dinner. While dining, one glass becomes two and three and so on.
“That’s ok” I think. I was eating. No harm done. I settle in to watch a movie and remember the whiskey. I’m a bit tired, I realize, so maybe I should have my nightcap a bit early least I fall asleep before drinking it.
I wake up in the early hours of the morning. There are two empty bottles on my counter. I feel like shit.
In the distance I hear a voice,
“Feeling bad?” it asks. “You deserve to feel better”.
If that is the conversation that you have in your head then Luke Bradford’s powerful video “One” will hopefully help you quiet it.
As long as we continue to glamorize alcohol and vilify, diminish, or label those who become dangerously addicted to it, not picking up that one drink will be doubly hard but it will always be worth it to fight to stay sober. If you’re drinking too much and are looking for an independent community to help you stop or slow down you’re welcome to come talk to us. Start with 30 days. Try a Dry July, Sober October, or New Year’s Dry January Challenge.
Luke Bradford shared his video with me to share with my community and with the wider community that I reach when I blog. Like my friend Rob who wrote the “Conversation in my Head” dialogue above, Luke is sharing his talents to help others who like him, are fighting an addiction that only we understand.
That is how we fight back.
The following video is the most graphically descriptive depiction of the addiction trap that I’ve seen. It’s 13 minutes long rather than 3 minutes, like the first video in this post, and it is NOT and not for those with a delicate disposition.
But then again it just might be the thing that helps you chose to turn away from the drug that’s punishing you ….
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Don’t let the shame of the stigma keep you from saying
“I think I have a problem with drinking”